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Five questions about the North Fork limo case

Drivers and limousine passengers remain vulnerable to the kind of crash that killed four young women last year in Cutchogue, according to a special grand jury report released by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota on Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2016. The report offers possible solutions, including regulation and redesigning the intersection.  (Credit: News 12 Long Island; Stringer News Service)

A special grand jury report released Tuesday offers details of the yearlong investigation into the North Fork limo crash that left four women dead in July 2015.

The report offered new details about that day, findings and recommendations. Here are five questions and answers to explain the status of the case and what’s to come for the people involved.

Q: Did the grand jury uncover anything that hadn’t been known already in this crash?

A: Yes, quite a few things. One is that there is no crash testing for limousines and no standards for side impacts to stretch limos, as there are with regular cars. Another is that the anti-intrusion beam in the side of this limo offered no resistance to the oncoming pickup truck, both because of how low it was and because of poor-quality welding, the grand jury said.

Q: Didn’t the victims and their families file civil suits in this case? What’s going on with those?

A: All the suits have been consolidated into one. The defendants now are the two drivers, the limo company, the Town of Southold and Suffolk County. As a result of the grand jury report, the limo manufacturer likely will be named as well. It’s still in the early stages, so discovery and depositions of witnesses have not yet happened.

Q: Is anyone still facing criminal charges for this crash?

A: Not really. A judge dismissed criminally negligent homicide charges against the limo driver, Carlos Pino, ruling that his actions didn’t fit the definition of the crime. Steven Romeo, the pickup driver who crashed into the limo, is still charged with DWI, but prosecutors say he never could have avoided the limo.

Q: Is there anything the federal government can do about limo safety?

A: As a result of prodding by Sen. Chuck Schumer, the National Transportation Safety Board has agreed to investigate and review future fatal limo crashes.

Q: Didn’t Suffolk County put a new traffic light at the intersection after the crash? Is that helping?

A: Actually, it may make things worse, the grand jury said. The light has no green arrow for turning vehicles, so all turns are still made in front of oncoming, highway-speed traffic. If anything, the new traffic light may lull turning drivers into a false sense of security, the report said.


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